Meet Kairon; IRSE!, the concept-loving Scandi proggers

A press shot of Kairon; IRSE!

“We started jamming together when we were at school,” explains Niko Lehdontie, guitarist and synth player with Finnish quartet Kairon; IRSE! “So it kind of happened naturally. We all have a shared interest in loud, fuzzy, otherworldly sounds – noisy pop and weird prog. And we’ve always loved ambitious concept albums. That’s why we made Ruination.”

Ruination is indeed a mighty brute that does its damnedest to defy classification. The band’s second album is a dense, fiendishly involved work that navigates a course through rampaging prog, heavy psychedelia, the wilder edges of jazz and strange avant-folk. A skronky fusionist’s dream, it packs in more thrills per inch than it has any right to do. It’s also the product of meticulous preparation. “We spent something like two and a half years arranging and creating the songs,” says Lehdontie. “The ideas came from improvisation, but then it was really carefully planned. We weren’t doing gigs at all, we were just composing and working on the whole album. When you play the same songs over and over for that amount of time, you get blind to them. Luckily though, we had our producer, Juho Vanhanen, to guide us.”

Formed in Seinäjoki, Kairon; IRSE! have been playing together for just over seven years. The initial fruits of their labour were collected on 2011’s mini-LP The Defect In That One Is Bleach/We’re Hunting Wolverines, before the bandcamp-only Ujubasajuba became something of an online phenomenon in 2014. Word spread fast, leading to a slew of festival appearances.

At their core, Kairon; IRSE! are a fascinating conflation of homegrown music and classic prog. “I think the old rock music from Finland shares the same kind of melodic sensibility as prog bands like Soft Machine and Caravan,” Lehdontie contends. “My favourite album of all time is by a Finnish prog act, Tasavallan Presidentti [translated to President Of The Republic], called Lambertland [1972]. It was a really big influence on this record. Also, stuff like Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and lots of other prog, like Egg and Soft Machine. You probably won’t hear a direct Soft Machine influence on Ruination, but Hugh Hopper’s bass playing has been a really huge influence. Me and the bass player, Dmitry [Melet], are massive jazz fanatics. During the 60s and 70s, the prog scene here in Finland was very modal jazz-influenced. So the music we make just feels right.”

While it’s tempting to decode the sense of apocalyptic doom in rolling epics like Sinister Waters I and II, or the tumultuous Starik, Lehdontie insists that “Lyrics aren’t so important to us.” Even the band’s name is nonsense, culled from a language they invented at school. “Ruination is more of a musical concept,” says Lehdontie, who also doubles as live guitarist for black metal types Oranssi Pazuzu, fronted by Vanhanen. “The singing is more of an instrument and the lyrics are there to explain the musical mood that we’re trying to create. We just want our music to speak for itself.”

Prog File

Line Up: Dmitry Melet (bass, vocals, violin), Niko Lehdontie (guitar, synth, organ), Johannes Kohal (drums), Lasse Luhta (guitar)

Sounds Like: A polymorphic riot of King Crimson, early Soft Machine and old school Scandi prog

Current Release: Ruination is out now on Svart


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Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.